Book Review: Fish Stick Fridays, by Rhys Ford

ford-fish-stick-fridaysFish Stick Fridays, by Rhys Ford
Series: Half Moon Bay Mystery, Book 1
Release Date: November 30, 2015

Rating: 5 out of 5

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press (Publisher)

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Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suited him just fine—until his baby sister died and he found himself raising her little girl.

Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu blows into his bookstore, and then he’s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid walks in, hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe but Deacon tempts him to step over the line… just a little bit.

More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.

Unfortunately, Zig isn’t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strikes leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too.

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Blog Tour: Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight

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Cover Artist: Posh Gosh

Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight
Series: Sin City Uniforms, Book Five
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 27, 2015)
Genre: BDSM, Crime/Mystery, Erotica, Gay (M/M) Romance
Word Count: approx. 51,000 words

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Welcome to the blog tour for Negotiating Love, the latest in Morticia Knight’s “Sin City Uniforms” series. This stand-alone romance features two men from two very different worlds, who find common ground in the bedroom. Be aware, this book contains scenes of BDSM and fetishism.

Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from the novel, and a secret key phrase to use for your chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

(You can read my review of Negotiating Love here.)

Summary:

Can the kinky billionaire owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino capture the heart of a muscled SWAT officer with a secret fetish?

SWAT Team Hostage Negotiator, Steve, wonders why he can’t stay away from the spoiled rich Allistair, owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino. They have mutual kinks – ones Steve can’t find with other lovers—but there’s something else about the emotionally detached, beautiful man that calls to him.

Billionaire Allistair stays alone in his luxury penthouse apartment at the top of Dark Fantasy, terrified of the real world and of opening himself up to genuine emotions. He takes lover after lover, all of them allowing him to do whatever he wants to their bodies, in the hopes that they can scam something from him.

One night is all he ever shares with a plaything—he knows they only want the money and luxury he can offer them and nothing more. But the down to earth Steve is different. They share the same kinks and are explosive when together. But could the muscled law officer ever want more than the lust-filled encounters that have become such an addiction?

As they grow closer, they discover they also have to find a balance between Steve’s everyday world and Allistair’s entitled world before they can truly find an ever after. They also have to make sure Allistair stays safe. Filthy rich playboys are too tempting to those who seek the ultimate payday—and who aren’t afraid of hurting someone to get it.

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Book Review: Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight

knight-negotiating-loveNegotiating Love, by Morticia Knight
Series: Sin City Uniforms, Book 5 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 27, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 51,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance; BDSM; Crime/Suspense

Rating: 3 out of 5

* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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Summary:

SWAT Team Hostage Negotiator Steve wonders why he can’t stay away from the spoiled, rich Allistair, owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino. They have mutual kinks—ones Steve can’t find with other lovers—but there’s something else about the emotionally detached, beautiful man that calls to him.

Billionaire Allistair stays alone in his luxury penthouse apartment at the top of Dark Fantasy, terrified of the real world and of opening himself up to genuine emotions. He takes lover after lover, all of them allowing him to do whatever he wants to their bodies, in the hopes that they can scam something from him.

One night is all he ever shares with a plaything—he knows they only want the money and luxury he can offer them and nothing more. But the down to earth Steve is different. They share the same kinks and are explosive when together. But could the muscled law officer ever want more than the lust-filled encounters that have become such an addiction?

As they grow closer, they discover they also have to find a balance between Steve’s everyday world and Allistair’s entitled world before they can truly find an ever after. They also have to make sure Allistair stays safe. Filthy rich playboys are too tempting to those who seek the ultimate payday—and who aren’t afraid of hurting someone to get it.

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My Review:

There were a lot of things about this novel that I liked, and a lot of things that I really disliked.

My favorite things about this book:

  • There’s a reverse power exchange going on that I didn’t expect. Steve is a SWAT police officer, big and muscled, so stereotypically he would be the top. Allistair is a smaller man, more effeminate, although he’s also a brilliant businessman. But the usual power dynamic says the big guy is the Top, and the small guy is the Bottom. I liked that it was reversed.
  • The emotions! Steve really cares about Allistair, and wants to protect him from anything dangerous. But because he cares so much, he also wants to protect Allistair from himself, and from his probably-unhealthy introvert tendencies. Allistair is super protective of Steve in exchange, but never smothering. He’s there for  Steve, just not overwhelmingly so.

“So what you’re trying to say is that you’re wondering if I might be your chance at love?”

  • There was an actual plot, and danger that drove that plot forward, but the story was all about the characters and the relationship. Even when things are hitting the climatic point, Steve and Allistair worry about the other, and work together to keep each other safe. I love relationship-centric novels!

What I disliked about the book:

  • The writing style was stilted and awkward, especially Allistair’s dialogue. It was less “business smart” and more “robot”. Some of Steve’s dialogue was just confusing, too, especially when he was upset or angry:

“And since you are no doubt quite familiar with my professional life already, I can detect bullshit from galaxies on the other side of the universe, so bearing that in mind– I expect you to be as honest with me as you claimed you appreciate having from me. Is that clear?”

  • The relationship itself was also as problematic as  it was enjoyable. There were times when it was epic levels of cheesy (“Have you gone mad?” “No. I’ve gone in love.”), but I was more upset with how fast it moved. At the beginning, Steve clearly doesn’t love Allistair; they have an arrangement and nothing more. But they go from “arrangement” to “love” in the blink of an eye!
  • The villain. I won’t spoil anything, but I thought it was stereotypical and not very well done. I also think the climax was resolved way too quickly. One second they tension is rising, and then it’s suddenly gone, and I was confused about what had happened.

Final Verdict?

A solid novel, and enjoyable, but with some pretty heavy issues that prevented me from really being able to love it.

Buy Links: Amazon / Pride Publishing

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Excellent… but not remotely as advertised! — Book Review: Heart of the Liliko’i, by Dena Hankins (Rating: 3/5)

hankins-hear-of-lilikoiHeart of the Liliko’i, by Dena Hankins
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books (October 19, 2015)
Page Count: 240 pages
Genre: Genderqueer Romance; Mystery, Crime/Thriller

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Summary:

Human remains tangled in lilikoi roots bring the authorities to Kerala’s construction site. Native Hawaiians say the passion fruit vine marks an ancient burial ground protected by guardian spirits, the ’aumakua. But these aren’t ancestral bones. The fractured skull points to murder.

Secrets, sabotage, and indigenous sovereignty campaigns hinder the project Kerala leads: building an eco-dream vacation home for Ravi, CEO of a solar power company. Proud to be a tough dyke in the trades, Kerala can’t believe she’s so hot for the masculine genderqueer scientist. Their sexual connection is volcanic, but Ravi’s craving for love and family aggravates burn scars from Kerala’s past. As the lovers pursue justice for Hawaii and its people, Ravi turns his gift for harnessing the sun’s strength toward cultivating his own power, and Kerala wonders if building deep, lasting love could be even more satisfying than constructing a home to last the ages.

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My Review:

This novel was LONG. I’m not talking physically, but it felt like every one of these 240 pages was five times as long as a normal page. The plot crawled by at times, and I kept waiting for the promised conflict of the summary… a promised conflict that didn’t come until more than two-thirds through the narrative.

Look: if the very first line of your summary promises a murder mystery tied to the native Hawaiian traditions, then DELIVER on that! When your main plot point doesn’t occur until the 70% point of the novel, you may want to rethink the basic premise.

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This novel was not at all what was promised. I thought I’d be reading a fast-paced mystery with “Secrets, sabotage, and indigenous sovereignty”, revolving around a murder found on a construction site. This is not what I read.

Now, the novel I read was good. It was, in fact, EXCELLENT. But it was a slow-paced character study about Kel, a lesbian construction worker, and Ravi, a genderqueer scientist. It was a love story set against a backdrop of Hawaiian politics.

If the summary had reflected the story accurately, I would have given this novel 4 or 4.5 out of 5 stars. But I was disappointed, and felt betrayed, because the story I got was not the story I was promised.

In the game of Diversity Bingo, this novel definitely wins a blackout. Lesbian main character, genderqueer love interest who is also a POC and a trans man, native Hawaiians vs. white ‘haole’… there’s no shortage of representation here. And Dena did a great job of integrating all of these elements, although at times I didn’t feel like the novel was a bit too political.

“I use genderqueer to say that my gender is complicated and won’t match your expectations, and that I won’t adopt a label that doesn’t work just to fit into or rebel against those expectations.” (Kindle Loc. 2094)

Do NOT read this book if you’re looking for a murder mystery/crime thriller. DO read this book if you want a lovely, evolving romance focusing on the relationship between two interesting characters.

(I find it interesting that this book is filed under just the “romance” genre on both BSB and Amazon, with no mention of a “mystery” or “crime” genre. This makes me think the summary was written to deceive readers, to make them think the novel was something that it isn’t.)

If the author and publisher changed the summary to reflect what this novel was actually about, I would recommend it much more highly. But basing your summary on the last 30% of the actual novel is a no-go for me.

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Blog Tour: “On the Run” by Michael Mandrake (Excerpt, Interview, and Giveaway!)

ontherun_pride_800 On the Run, by Michael Mandrake
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Action/Crime Thriller; Gay (M/M) Romance

Reader Advisory: This book contains the use of racial slurs.

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Welcome to the blog tour for Michael Mandrake’s new release, On the Run! This is the first in the PROTEKT series, which features a top-secret organization that works apart from governments to help those in need. I’m excited to host Michael’s tour here on Just Love today, because On the Run has an action-packed plot and multicultural characters!

Keep reading for an excerpt from the book, Michael’s thoughts on writing gay men of color, and your chance to win a Pride Publishing ebook of your choice!

Summary:

Who would’ve thought that a British hitman would fall in lust at first sight with an American felon? It could become deadly for both.

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

However, when Devlin receives the email, the pictures of the blue-eyed felon catch his eye and he is moved to go in a different direction. Instead of delivering Aiden to the airport, he has thoughts of taking him away and saving him from Ora’s wrath.

This move puts himself and Aiden, as well as his assistant, Miranda Ashley, in huge danger. Will Devlin keep Aiden safe despite the odds, or will he fail, causing Ora and his men to come after him?

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Book Review: On the Run, by Michael Mandrake (Rating: 2.5/5)

mandrake-on-the-runOn the Run, by Michael Mandrake (PROTEKT Series, Book 1)
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Action/Adventure, Romance

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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* I received an advanced copy of this novel from Pride Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

Hit men. Drugs. The Mob. Major League Baseball. It sounds like the plot of a high-budget action movie, and I was incredibly intrigued to read it based on the summary. Throw in two hot men who are instantly attracted to one another, and you definitely have my attention. But I think this novel would have worked out a lot better as just an action novel, leaving the romance behind.

Summary:

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

The plot of this novel was actually pretty interesting. Aiden initially got into dealing drugs to famous athletes in order to make some good, quick money. The lifestyle of being the personal drug dealer to one of MLB’s biggest stars was enough to keep him from feeling guilty. But when Aiden has a change of heart and agrees to testify, he ends up in deeper trouble than he realized.

On the flip-side is Dev and his best friend Miranda. They’re British assassins-for-hire, and Dev’s next job is to get rid of Aiden before he can testify. But as soon as Dev sees a picture of Aiden, he can’t help but feel lust for the other man, and this kicks off a chain of events that leads to Dev, Miranda, and Aiden fleeing to escape Ora’s wrath.

But there are some serious, serious problems with the actual execution of this super interesting plot. Namely, the characters themselves, and Dev and Aiden’s “relationship”.

Look, lust is find. Instant attraction based on looks? Sure, I’ll buy it. But making a conscious decision to leave your job and risk your life for a man, just because he’s gorgeous? Um….mandrake-elsa-frozen-marry

Mandrake tries hard to make their relationship seem genuine. The issue is Aiden, who is uninteresting and has absolutely no skills. He’s hot. He wants someone rich to take care of him. He’s a sex fiend. That’s really about it for Aiden. Dev, on the other hand, is slightly more complex; he wants out of his job, and he dreams of retiring somewhere quiet to enjoy his life. He’s a big, black man in a world that negatively stereotypes big, black men.

People were always surprised when he said he lived in one of the most affluent spots in London. (ePub, page 11)

I absolutely despised Miranda. DESPISED. I’m sorry, there was literally nothing redeeming about her character. She is, to quote Dev, “crazy like a fox“, but I don’t think that’s a good thing. She constantly endangers their mission, she’s trigger-happy, and she has serious mood swings. This book could have done with 100% less Miranda, and 100% more actual strong, female character.

I give Mandrake credit for writing an interesting plot, and for trying to make sense of Aiden and Dev’s attraction. It almost felt, at times, like the author himself didn’t buy into the relationship, and had to justify it to himself and the reader.

“We haven’t had our first date, our first kiss, and I want this man more than I want to breathe. It’s something sexy about him other than his looks, charm and wit that I can’t quite place. It’s as if all of a sudden Cupid shot me with a bow and arrow. I don’t believe in all that instant love thing, Miranda, but I’m not thinking rationally when it comes to him.” (ePub, page 66)

In the end, this novel just really didn’t do it for me, but I think it made a valiant attempt at it!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Like Crime/Thriller novels? Check out these books!

top-ten-tuesday-text This weekly meme is hosted by Broke and Bookish.

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is an “if you like x, then you might enjoy y” theme. I couldn’t think of one single author that I love in the crime/thriller genre, because it’s such a diverse area of fiction, but I wanted to recommend some great mysteries, crime dramas, and thrillers that you may not have heard of.

(And of course, a LOT of these are also romances. Yes, it’s cheesy, I know… there’s nothing more stereotypical than a detective putting in long hours on the job, and the lover who helps keep them human. But I absolutely love this theme!)

If you like James Patterson, Tess Gerritsen, or Stieg Larsson, then you probably love books that keep you on the edge of your seat, witty characters trying to solve mysteries, and criminals that are almost as brilliant as their pursuers. So check out these ten crime/thriller books:


1. Dirty Kiss (The Cole McGinnis Series #1), by Rhys Ford (Buy)

ford-dirty-kissCole Kenjiro McGinnis, ex-cop and PI, is trying to get over the shooting death of his lover when a supposedly routine investigation lands in his lap. Investigating the apparent suicide of a prominent Korean businessman’s son proves to be anything but ordinary, especially when it introduces Cole to the dead man’s handsome cousin, Kim Jae-Min.

Jae-Min’s cousin had a dirty little secret, the kind that Cole has been familiar with all his life and that Jae-Min is still hiding from his family. The investigation leads Cole from tasteful mansions to seedy lover s trysts to Dirty Kiss, the place where the rich and discreet go to indulge in desires their traditional-minded families would rather know nothing about.

It also leads Cole McGinnis into Jae-Min’s arms, and that could be a problem. The death of Jae-Min’s cousin is looking less and less like a suicide, and Jae-Min is looking more and more like a target. Cole has already lost one lover to violence he’s not about to lose Jae-Min too.


2. Criminal Gold (Cantor Gold Crimes #1), by Ann Aptaker (Buy)

aptaker-criminal-goldMidnight, New York Harbor, 1949. Cantor Gold, dapper dyke-about-town, smuggler of fine art, waits in her boat under the Brooklyn Bridge for racketeer Gregory Ortine. In the shadow of the bridge, he’ll toss Cantor a satchel of cash, and she’ll toss him a pouch containing a priceless jewel.

But the plan, and the jewel, sink when a woman in a red sequined dress drops from the bridge and slams onto Cantor’s boat. She is Opal Shaw, Society Page darling and fiancée of murder-for-hire kingpin Sig Loreale.

Through a night of danger, desire, and double-cross, Cantor must satisfy Loreale’s vengeance, stay ahead of an angry Ortine, and untangle the knots of murder tightening around Opal’s best friend and keeper of her dirty secrets, Celeste Copley, a seductress who excites Cantor’s passion but snares her in a labyrinth of lies. The lies explode in a collision of love, loyalty, lust… and death.


3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1), by Alan Bradley (Buy)

bradley-sweetness-bottom-pieIt is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”


4. The Cuckoos Calling (Cormoran Strike #1), by Robert Galbraith (Buy)

galbraith-cuckoos-calling

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.


5. The Morning Star (Shadow of the Templar #1), by M. Chandler (FREE!)

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Simon Drake is an up-and-coming young FBI hotshot, an agent with a personal track record so outstanding that it borders on unbelievable. Not yet thirty, he’s already the leader of his own special ops team; a ragtag bunch of talented but nigh-uncontrollable lunatics, it’s true, but under Simon’s inspired leadership they’re a force to be reckoned with, a team with an unparalleled success rate, a team with an almost unblemished record–until now.

Jeremy Archer is the brilliant and unpredictable scion of a long line of international art thieves, simultaneously a phenomenally wealthy English socialite and one of the most infamous criminals in the world. At twenty-seven years old he’s already wanted on nearly every continent for thefts totalling more than ninety-one million dollars, and yet no one has ever come close to catching him–until now.

Now?

May the best man win.


6. Iron and Velvet (Kate Kane #1), by Alexis Hall (Buy)

hall-iron-and-velvet

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.


7. The Third Twin, by C.J. Omololu (Buy)

omololu-third-twin

Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liarsmeets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.


8. Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1), by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban (Buy)

roux-urban-cut-and-run

A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case.

Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He’s cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he’s paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it’s hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliche: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple.

They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer. Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again – this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer’s knife.


9. Scarlett Undercover, by Jennifer Latham (Buy)

latham-scarlett-undercover

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.


10. Rivers of London (Midnight Riot) (Peter Grant #1), by Ben Aaronovitch (Buy)

aaronovitch-rivers-of-london

Published as Midnight Riot in the United States.

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost.

Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.


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Review: The Way of the Yakuza series, by H.J. Brues (Rating: 4/5)

Brues-Yakuza

Yakuza Pride (Book One) and Yakuza Courage (Book Two), by H.J. Brues
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (2011, 2013)
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5

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I was browsing the “upcoming releases” section of Amazon’s LGBT Romance page, and saw a book cover that caught my eye. The cover was for the French release of a novel called Yakuza Pride, which I’d never read. Because I absolutely judge books by their covers, I immediately clicked over to the English version. Three sentences in to the summary, I clicked the “Buy Now” button.

I loved the hell out this series! I’m not ashamed, I’ll admit it! I read both of them over the weekend while sick in bed, and seriously enjoyed the heck out of ’em. This is the stereotypical “innocent character falls in love with a criminal” plot, except set in Japan. The innocent guy is Ken, an American artist raised in Japan. The criminal is Shigure, a yakuza captain. Together they fight crime have a lot of sex!

Look, I can recognize that there are a lot of things wrong with these books. Let me point out a  few of the more obvious pitfalls:

  • Ken is such a Mary Sue character. He’s gorgeous, has mismatched eyes (one bright green, one brown), is perfect at everything he attempts (art, sword fighting, etc), and Shigure falls in love with him at first sight.
  • The terms yakuza and gaijin (Japanese for foreigner) are over-used, to the point of eye-rolling.
  • Plot holes deep enough to get lost in.
  • Characters who are a bit over-the-top (Kotaro drove me crazy, and not in a good way!)

But I. Do. Not. Care. I don’t care that Ken is too perfect and too amazing, or that there were entire subplots that made no sense or were clearly not all the way thought out. I just want to roll around in these books, because they’re so freaking fun.

tangled rapunzel rolling

Ken meets Shigure at an event and they’re instantly attracted. Thankfully Ken speaks fluent Japanese, and has a perfect understanding of Japanese culture and formalities (of course!), so he makes a good impression on the yakuza. Turns out Shigure is a known kendo master, and Ken is also (of course) really great with a wooden sword, so they arrange a match. Ken wins, because he’s actually super badass. And then they have sex. A LOT of sex. And it’s hot.

The first book, Yakuza Pride, follows Ken and Shigure’s relationship as it forms, and then takes a turn for the darker when Ken is kidnapped and tortured. This brings into play Ken’s family; his dad is a Republican senator back in the US, and having a gay son is bad enough, but having a gay son who’s sleeping with a known gangster is intolerable. Drama ensues.

The second book was actually my favorite though. Yakuza Courage follows Kinosuke, one of Shigure’s lieutenants. I don’t want to go too much into the plot, because it picks up right where Pride finishes (so I’d have to spoil the end of that one), but it was ridiculous and delightful and introduced a crazy cast of characters. Oh, and Ken gets kidnapped again. Of course.

There are books that are ridiculously bad, and there are books that are so ridiculous that they’re good. These are definitely the latter. Final word? They’re fun, the plot is entertaining, and you should totally check them out.

(Oh, and a few important warnings, highlight to read: sexual assault/torture.)

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